Govt must ensure teachers' safety, health ahead of class opening: senator

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2020 09:29 AM | Updated as of Aug 18 2020 11:45 AM

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MANILA - Government must assure teachers of their safety as they prepare for the upcoming school year, a senator said Tuesday.

The Department of Education said it has a protocol for coronavirus testing for teachers as the latter earlier questioned government's readiness to open classes this month.

The agency's responses to teachers' concerns are "very vague and unassuring," said Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

"From our hearings and from the pronouncement of DepEd, we haven’t fully secured the health concerns and health safeguards for our teachers," he told ANC.

"We need to make sure they are fully secured or else they will not have the confidence and also encourage to go out and execute the distance learning modality."

Gatchalian said he has recommended DepEd to coordinate with PhilHealth and GSIS to set up measures in the event a teacher needs hospitalization.

"It’s very hazy to them where to go. Most of them will tap into their resources and local government units," he said. "There are mechanisms to assure our teachers and no-teaching staff that government is at their back and will never leave them behind."

The Senate has also allotted P17 billion in its proposed P140 billion Bayanihan 2 as assistance for displaced workers, including teachers, Gatchalian said.

"What’s important here is there is now a fund the education can tap into. There's a strict mandate for the education institution to help out employees who will be displaced because of disruption in enrollment," he said.

A recent poll found adult joblessness at a record-high 45.5 percent with an estimated 27.3 million Filipinos without work.

Giving direct subsidy for food and medicine is the "most elementary support government can give," Gatchalian said.

"I truly believe government can still extract P100 billion to support our families especially in this time of uncertainty, when unemployment has shot up tremendously," he said.

The senator, meantime, expressed concern that hospitals will again be overwhelmed as Metro Manila eased into a general community quarantine after a 2-week breather for healthcare workers.

"My fear is again if we loosen up the economy people will move around, interact with each other, our hospital capacity might be put under pressure in the next 2 weeks," he said.